Christmas is over, but the holiday season continues with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and other gift occasions. One ritual that goes along with giving is the returning. Some things have changed with retailer’s return policies this year.
Susan Wilson Solovic of SBTV has tips for making holiday returns.
A new survey commissioned by eBay finds nearly 60 percent of Americans receive unwanted gifts during the holiday season. More of the gift recipients are skipping the return lines and selling those gifts online at auction sites like eBay, or Craig’s List. For those who decide to brave the lines and go to the stores to exchange their gifts, gift receipts are making it much easier for recipients to make returns. They also make it easier to for retailers to track consumer return activity.
The National Retail Federation says stores face 16 billion dollars worth of return fraud every year. These are costs that have to be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices so retailers are fighting back by keeping track of how often a customer returns an item, if they had a receipt and the return amount. Some sellers do the tracking internally, others hire a firm like the Return Exchange. The Irvine, California based company looks for fraud or abusive activity on returns by examining the frequency of consumer returns, the amount of time and the dollar total the consumer spends.
Often they will have a sign at the cash register saying they use the Return Exchange service or outlining exactly what their policy is. If you are asked to show your driver’s license when making an exchange or return, that is an indicator the retailer is using the Return Exchange or has an internal system that is keeping track of your return activity. You can find out if the Return Exchange has a return history report on you by calling 1-800-652-2331.
Retailers set their own policies on refunds, exchanges and credits. The consumer’s best bet is to know about a store’s return and exchange policy before making a purchase. The National Retail Federation also has some suggestions on avoiding problems if you need to return an item to the store.
Receipts Are Important. Keep all receipts and ask for gift receipts. Most major retailers can issue gift receipts which contain all the necessary information to prove the item was purchased, but exclude the price so the recipient doesn’t know the price unless they need to return it.
Don’t Open It. If the gift isn’t what you hoped for, don’t open the package! Open movies, music and computer software packages usually cannot be returned or exchanged at all. Open boxes on other items may be subject to a restocking fee.
Keep Everything. It is best to provide all the original packaging including the tags. You can remove the tear-away sections of tags, but if the tag isn’t designed to be torn away, use a pen or marker to hide the price instead of destroying the tag.
Don’t Wait. Make returns as soon as possible. Even retailers with liberal return policies limit the time you have to make an adjustment. You’ll also have a better selection of merchandise for exchanges the sooner you get back after the holidays.